Checklist for moving course online
Worksheets and Checklists

A Checklist for Moving Your Course Online

A checklist is absolutely essential to moving a face-to-face course online. Not only does it help the instructor conceptualize their course in an online environment, it helps the instructional designer see what needs to be done. Here is a simple guide to preparing to move your courses online.

Topics to consider

Course length/timeframe

Most courses run the length of a semester, but this does not always translate directly to an online format. For instance, you may have 30 minutes of instruction in a course session followed by class activity and homework. Students are then given activities and readings to do outside of class that support the lecture. By contrast, in an online course, the “lecture” need not be the center of instruction, but more of a means to guide students to the concepts they will learn through other material. In my online business courses, I like to first provide students with relevant practical materials to dive in and see the concepts in action. I then use my lecture as a way to wrap-up and highlight what was learned in the module.

Course objectives

In many cases, there are fewer course objectives for online courses, in that material is chunked to keep students from becoming overwhelmed. Review current course objectives and make a note of which topics contain the most and the least number of objectives. Also, make a note of which topics/modules/sessions contain objectives that are often difficult for your students.

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Blended and Flipped

“What Were You Thinking of When You Decided on That Rating?”

Most student rating instruments include a question related to the feedback provided by the instructor. It may ask whether it was constructive, actionable, delivered in a timely manner, or some combination of these characteristics. Most teachers are conscientious about giving students feedback. Because they devote so much time and effort to providing it, they are often disappointed and frustrated when students don’t rate the quality of the feedback very positively.

That’s what was happening in the faculties of arts and social sciences and of law at the University of New South Wales. The question on their student rating form asked students whether they were given helpful feedback on how they were doing in the course. “Members of the staff [faculty] whose courses have been rated lower on feedback than on other factors have been puzzled as to just what it was that they would have to do in order to score really well on the feedback question.” (p. 50)

Article author Shirley V.  Scott conducted a series of focus group conversations with students in these two programs. Her approach was direct. She gave students a copy of the question from the student rating form, asked them to think of a course they were enrolled in now and a course they had already completed, and rate both on the feedback question. Then she asked them to reflect and write about what aspects of those courses shaped their answer to the feedback question. “What were you thinking of when you decided how to rate that course?” (p. 51)

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female student at computer
Online Learning

Ways to Improve Relationships in Online Classes

Establishing a healthy learning environment is key to teaching. But opportunities for making personal connections and relationships with students are greatly reduced in online classes. Thus, online instructors need to make a special effort to foster relationships in their online courses.

Start class with a live meeting

I always begin my classes with a live Adobe Connect meeting. I use my webcam, which allows students see my face, hear my voice, and have an opportunity to get to know me as person. I share a little about my life, including the seven-year-old child I have who will occasionally (supposedly accidentally) pop his head in during the middle of class.

Prior to that meeting, I have students post a little about themselves (including a picture) in a discussion board in our LMS. This lets me use that information to make connections with students in the meeting. For example, I mentioned that a student’s superintendent had been my principal in one of my first administrative positions.

In addition to providing my background, I review the course assignments and explain them in greater detail. I often set up polls in Adobe Connect to determine what time students prefer to meet, if a specific activity was beneficial, if they are interested in learning more about a topic, etc. Students appreciate the opportunity to get to know the professor, ask questions about the course structure, and learn from the questions of others. These live meetings are recorded, and those unable to attend are able to watch the recording when it is convenient for them.

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Rejuvenating online discussions
Online Learning

Rejuvenating Online Discussions

When you picture an online discussion, your mind most likely envisions a text-heavy, threaded exchange of ideas among students who are primarily responding to an instructor’s prompt and then persuaded by the promise of points to respond to each other. Depending on a number of factors, the discussion can be dynamic, or it can fall flat. Because discussion forums are one of the most popular and frequently used technological tools in online and blended courses, instructors must take the time to ensure these discussions are effective.

Our simple model proposes a structure to help rejuvenate online discussions in three steps: prepping, discussing, and assessing. Prepping is an important and sometimes overlooked step, as we are all rushed for time when we begin our online or blended courses, but we argue that preparation is essential to reach your intended outcomes for your course. Some of the key aspects of prepping include creating clear criteria for your students, communicating expectations, establishing ground rules, carefully considering question types, and having clear goals or links to learning outcomes.

If it’s important that your students write over 300 words in a post, make that explicit. If you expect your students to respond within a week to two other students’ posts, write it clearly in your instructions. Better yet, make a video for your students describing your expectations. You might even consider having the students come up with the ground rules or netiquette for discussions. Making conscious decisions about the type of question(s) you are going to ask in a discussion forum is key. Try a case study or scenario and ask students to solve or respond to it. Ask students to role play as a particular character or historical figure as they respond to your prompt.

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Are these students ready for college?
Teaching Strategies and Techniques

Ready for College?

Talk with almost any faculty member and they will tell you that many (sometimes it’s most) of their students are unprepared for college. They lack basic skills in reading, writing, and computation but also don’t have very effective study habits and techniques. Most teachers try to convey their concerns about this lack of preparedness to students, but often it feels as though those messages are falling on deaf ears.

In a survey, nearly 700 students, mostly sophomores, were asked how ready they felt for college. Did they think they were prepared for college-level work? Eighty percent of the sample had come directly from high school to college, and 70 percent said that their high schools had prepared them well for college. However, over 50 percent of these students considered college more challenging than they expected. When given a list and asked what two academic skills they wished that high school had helped them develop further, 48 percent said time management, 39 percent said exam preparation, 37 percent identified general study skills, and 27 percent noted independent thinking. Only 12 percent identified studying to understand and remember.

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check on learning
Teaching Strategies and Techniques

Checking for Understanding

Research shows that checking for understanding is perhaps one of the most important components of a teaching sequence. Most teachers provide instruction on a topic and follow up with some questions. On a good day, 4–5 students may volunteer and respond with the correct answers. The teacher then assumes that the majority of the class understands the concept and can handle a homework assignment. The teacher then moves on to the next topic.

The problem with this scenario is what the teacher concludes about the level of understanding within the class. Students who raise their hands are often more confident, verbal, or simply have better study habits. Many times, students who do not fully understand are reluctant to speak. Regardless, it is very difficult to informally assess the learning of an entire class based on the responses of only a few.

A variety of formative assessment strategies give teachers a better way to gauge the level of understanding within a class. For example, a teacher can ask students to answer several questions or do some problems displayed on a digital whiteboard. Then the teacher can collect students’ work and quickly see who gets it, who needs more practice, and who has no clue.

Checking for understanding is vital to facilitate true learning. When students are still unclear, confused, or misunderstanding, and are then assigned independent practice via a homework assignment, there is a greater risk that they’ll practice incorrect learning. Checking for student understanding can prevent this complication. Below are several strategies that instructors can use to check for student understanding, all of which have the added benefit of increasing student engagement.

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online student engagement
Online Learning

How to Add Student Engagement to Your Online Courses

Student engagement has become a focus of higher education—online education in particular—over the past few years. The wide range of interactive methods now available on the web provides instructors with a multitude of ways to insert engagement into their courses.

But while we hear about engagement from instructors and software companies, students themselves have been a somewhat silent voice in the discussions. Florence Martin and Doris Bolliger address this oversight by surveying students in online courses to identify which activities they find most engaging. The researchers divided engagement activities into three categories: learner-to-learner, learner-to-instructor, and learner-to-content. Their findings suggest a number of ways for online instructors to infuse student engagement into their courses.

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students receiving exam results
Grading and Feedback

Making the Grading Process More Transparent

College teachers are always on the lookout for ways to help students better understand why their paper, essay answer, or project earned a particular grade. Many students aren’t objective assessors of their own work, especially when there’s a grade involved, and others can’t seem to understand how the criteria the instructor used applies to their work.

As the author Matthew Bamber notes, grading is not a transparent process to students, even if they have been given the criteria or rubric beforehand. He devised an exercise for his master’s-level accounting and finance students that they found “eye-opening.” In the UK, students “sit” for lengthy exams—in this case, a three-hour, closed-book essay test. In the exercise, students began by answering one lengthy essay question. When finished, they were given a suggested answer to the question (it contained a problem they had to solve and a written analysis), a marking guide, and a set of grade descriptors. Then they were given an anonymous answer to the same question and told to grade it using the materials provided. After having completed that step, students were given a teacher-graded copy of the anonymous answer. The exercise concluded with students being told to grade their answer to the question.

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getting students to read what's assigned
Teaching Strategies and Techniques

10 Strategies for Promoting Accountability and Investment in Reading Assignments

As teachers, we see value in what we assign students, but students don’t always appreciate the relevance or understand the purpose of their assignments. Required readings are a great example of this disconnect. However, when students have some input into their learning, their response to assignments (yes, even reading assignments) changes. Rather than requiring fill-in-the-blank reading guides or giving weekly quizzes to “motivate” students to do assigned readings, professors can give students some alternatives. We can design those alternatives to give students greater choice and responsibility for their learning, thereby making the assignments more meaningful. Here is a collection of reading assignment alternatives we use and recommend.

  1. Non-structured Notes: Allow students to submit notes on assigned readings in various formats. These formats may include a detailed outline, graphic organizer, poster, summary paragraphs, or other visual representations of the material. Different format samples can be shared with the entire class or within small groups to stimulate discussion of the readings.

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studying outside
Teaching Strategies and Techniques

Using Reading Prompts to Encourage Critical Thinking

“Students can critically read in a variety of ways:

  • When they raise vital questions and problems from the text,
  • When they gather and assess relevant information and then offer plausible interpretations of that information,
  • When they test their interpretations against previous knowledge or experience …,
  • When they examine their assumptions and the implications of those assumptions, and
  • When they use what they have read to communicate effectively with others or to develop potential solutions to complex problems.” (p. 127)

And don’t we all wish our students read this way! Unfortunately most of them don’t, and the challenge is finding those strategies and approaches that help them develop these sophisticated reading skills. Terry Tomasek, who crafted this description of critical reading, proposes one of those kinds of strategies.

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